Holy Fuck Congrats

[Innovative Leisure/Last Gang; 2016]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: rock electronics
Others: The Chemical Brothers, The Go! Team, Mogwai, Battles, The Octopus Project

Holy fuck, this band is still making music basically the same way they were back in 2004, and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a joy. Although I initially wrote them off as a gimmick based on the attention-grabbing name, 2010’s Latin wormed its way into my long-term playlists so suddenly and easily I didn’t question it. Songs like “SHT MTN,” “Stilettos,” and “Lovely Allen” hit a pleasure point so basic but also so immediately satisfying, arch crescendos of saturation and forever-in-the-fucking-pocket drums in a selfless, hyper modern funk. I still play those songs all the time, and Congrats seems primed to add a few to that party playlist.

While there are sung words in some Holy Fuck songs, and moreso than ever on Congrats, the vocals are low and blended in, filling reverb-heavy rooms, passing an indirect guidance to the mix. It’s a technique optimized on Latin and heavily employed on songs here like “Chimes Broken,” its monastic narrator-from-a-cave providing an appropriately psychedelic witness to experience. Meanwhile, they push the key features — the transitions, the distortion, the swing, the overworked melody — to emerge as sight lines that guide the listener, an alive and modular electronica, safely inhabiting a world with fixed, load-bearing beats before destroying it from within with patch adjustments. This created space is owed to lots of practice — that rhythm section is wound up like a watch — but also to a macro mindset, a band with sights set to a choice sync of sound, style, and shape that uses every second to earn its payoff.

“Chimes Broken” builds from sudden, unrelenting basses before striking black-and-white contrasts in cymbal timbres to break you in two. Its opening notes feel less like a blueprint than a heartbeat, a compulsive call the band is compelled to respond to, kraut loops growing in the hips. Much of the record travels in blown-out, saturated tones like this, resembling a bit more of their self-titled debut and sophomore LP than the more recent, sharper Latin, and reiterating a few of the Tonebank-Rhythm-Ko-esque grooves that we’ve heard before, albeit with a darker, occasionally shoegazy approach this time. But there are contrasts all over this record, and the sequencing keeps things fluid and lively between low, funky brooders (“Shivering”), mid-tempo rock (“Xed Eyes”) and dreamers like “Neon Dad,” which starts with faint lines like “consumes you, consumes me too” and “someone else’s sunshine,” and drives full force into distorted waves of surf and psych.

“Tom Tom” creeps heavy like a T. Rex with lyrics about beady little eyes and executions, and “Acidic” is big beat gone bonkers, laced distortion crushing a carnival of comic euro-disco from the 80s that mercifully diverts later into something nice. “House of Glass,” in both name and design — those opening, window-shattering bomb drops — feels like a post-Death Grips take on broody electro-rock, and “Caught Up” reminds me of peak ChemBros psych-arpeggio-tronica, with requisite crescendo. But as I place these songs on a spectrum of references, I also have to acknowledge the quality and form with which they reframe those similar elements, how they pounce on these shared points of inspiration and extract only the most infectious melodies, the phenomenal moments, and rebuild them in painstaking synchronicity, putting the unshakable Holy Fuck-ness of their focus in full view. Congrats to that.

Links: Holy Fuck - Innovative Leisure/Last Gang

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